Das Tor News

Rep. Matt Salmon: Business vs. Politics

An Op-ed by: Marissa Burkett, Audio/Visual Editor

Congressman Matt Salmon, Representative (RAZ 5th District), visited Thunderbird on  Tuesday, March 31, to speak about trends and opportunities for business in Latin America and Asia. One of the only members of the House who speaks fluent Chinese, many students signed up to hear him speak (and to a special lunch beforehand) about potential opportunities in the countries in which they hope to find employment.

Photo Courtesy of Rick Beitman
Photo Courtesy of Rick Beitman

The congressman also was sure to speak for a bit on his partisan platform and thoughts on the current administration’s actions, a topic which was not appreciated by all in the crowd, which brings me to ask a bigger question: Should visiting scholars be allowed to speak about their politics when under the guise of speaking about global business?

Photo Courtesy of Rick Beitman
Photo Courtesy of Rick Beitman

This is not the first time that this has happened, even in my short time here, where a visiting speaker used his platform to address partisan politics in addition to the topic at hand. In some of these cases, the talks have been mandatory. Thanks to the diversity of this student body, naturally there will be people in each audience who a) agree, b) disagree, or c) are not interested in hearing about U.S. political opinions at all. Thus, there will always be some uncomfortable audience members when politics are brought up unannounced.

Photo Courtesy of Rick Beitman
Photo Courtesy of Rick Beitman

Although clearly Thunderbird cannot tell these speakers what to say, I question if there is not a different way to market and communicate what the content of the speech will be in advance.  This would alleviate the discomfort of the students who came to hear about Chinese business and instead heard about how our nation’s administration is not doing enough to support business in China.

 

3 thoughts on “Rep. Matt Salmon: Business vs. Politics

  1. Well written Marissa! I agree, the speaker was sharing a bit too much opinion vs. facts and was not culturally considerate. I believe the best way to manage these visitors is to insure they understand why they are here and who they are speaking to. We assume others know how diverse we are, but that is not always true.

  2. I was unable to attend Representative Salmon’s presentation but Marissa’s question is an important one. The Thunderbird community is a diverse one, and the speakers who come to campus are from many countries, many ethnic backgrounds, many political and religious persuasions. Sometimes in their presentations they bring ideas and perspectives to the table that may make their listeners in the audience uncomfortable because they do not agree with the point of view being presented. Nevertheless, the speakers are our guests, and our students are here to learn about how to work in a globally diverse environment. Part of the learning experience is to be exposed to many different points of view and to seek ways to engage respectfully either in support or in disagreement. It may well be that when a speaker is invited he or she is made aware that the audience at Thunderbird is culturally and politically diverse. By the same token, our students should be prepared to hear political and cultural views that may be different from their own. We are all in this together, and we have to be willing to work towards mutual understanding within our diversities.

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